North Hall senior Taylor Swoszowski is excited to be able to play one more high school basketball game.
Today the Lady Trojans point guard and three of her teammates join other girls and boys players from Northeast Georgia at the inaugural North Georgia All Star Classic, with the girls game tipping off at 6 tonight and the boys following at Gainesville High.
“It’s definitely a great way to go out,” Swoszowski said. “I think it’s great to be able to come together and, instead of playing against one another, to play together.”
Event coordinators Adrian Penland and Mario Mays had been talking for years about giving North Georgia’s best basketball players a curtain call before their illustrious high school careers come to an end.
Now, with the help of a small committee, they are putting on a pair of games that showcase the best of Hall County and the rest of Northeast Georgia.
“We just wanted to give back to the kids for putting in four years of basketball,” Penland said. “We thought about this years ago.”
The plan is for this to be the first of an annual event to showcase the region’s best seniors, not unlike the Gwinnett County All Star games.
There are players from Gainesville, North Hall, East Hall, Lakeview Academy, Flowery Branch and Johnson, not to mention White County, Jefferson, Monroe Area, Apalachee, Habersham Central and other area teams. Coaches for the girls game are Gainesville’s Brenda Hill-Gilmore and Flowery Branch’s Hazel Hall, and the boys teams will be led by Gainesville’s Todd Cottrell and Flowery Branch’s Duke Mullis.
The idea for this and future games is to pit Hall County’s best against the rest of the region, and Penland said he hopes to streamline the selection process with coaches’ nominations in future years.
A BOOST TO GIRLS GOLF: Gainesville girls golf coach Clay McDonald is very excited about the future of the sport.
On Monday the Georgia High School Association voted to add a third girls score to the official matches for the next two school years, as well as adding a sectionals tournament before state.
“Anything we can do to make high school girls golf more relevant, I’m for it,” said McDonald, the Lady Red Elephants coach for the last four seasons.
Adding a third girls score certainly won’t hurt a team as deep as Gainesville.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I’ve worked real hard not to just coach the best two players, but to improve the whole program. It makes it more of a team sport.”
McDonald, as the Region 8-AAA girls representative to the Georgia High School Golf Coaches Association, was part of the process to get these changes to the GHSA golf committee, which also brought to the Executive Committee’s attention a proposal to move golf to the fall.
“I think that it would be a real positive move as well,” McDonald said. “It’s really better for the kids and the golf courses.”
He also mentioned that it would result in better scores as golfers transition straight from summer golf leagues to the fall, as opposed to being rusty after a winter off.
A survey of high schools around the state will determine how much interest there is in a possible move. Still, the Lady Red Elephants coach is very happy about what has already been done.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” McDonald said.
EAST HALL BASEBALL STOPS SKID: For a couple of days, the Vikings were on a two-game winning streak after a pair of one-run wins over Banks County and Rabun County.
It wouldn’t be a big deal except that the 10-9 win over the Leopards on March 16 broke a 31-game losing streak dating back to 2010, and the 8-7 extra-inning win over Rabun County three days later made it the first time the team had won back-to-back games since East Hall won three straight in 2009.
“The kids were really excited; it kind of relieved the stress,” East Hall coach Wesley Crow said. “I told them that once you get the first one everything else will fall into place and you can relax.
“They started out the season trying to be a better team, and getting that first win brought them even closer together.”
The Vikings (2-7, 2-3 Region 8-AA) fell to Rabun County 10-0 on Wednesday to stop the brief winning streak, but one thing is for certain: East Hall, which returned its entire pitching staff and eight of nine starters from an 0-25 season in 2011 and lost two extra-inning games this year before the wins, is improving.
LADY FALCONS TENNIS IN CONTROL: The Madison County tennis program has long been a powerhouse in Northeast Georgia and in Region 8-AAAA.
Now, clear the way for Flowery Branch. The Lady Falcons (13-1, 8-0 8-AAAA) defeated Madison County 5-0 for the second time this season on Tuesday to take firm control of the North subregion.
“Madison County is always tough and very well coached,” said Flowery Branch girls tennis coach Ginger Jackson. “If we do not play well and stay on our toes, they’ll beat us. Luckily, we stayed on our toes.”
Jackson noted a few reasons the team has been so successful this season after finishing second in the region last year, including the year-round practice and leagues that the players participate in, as well as a group of seniors who have been with the program since the eighth grade.
With so much talent and drive, Jackson and the Lady Falcons are looking to take that next step to win the region this season (last year the team fell to Heritage-Conyers in the finals) and advance in the state tournament.